DIRT Mom Natalie Broadnax (DIRT Family Values Ride Leader): I have been Zwifting for a little over a year now. Instead of 20min of suffering, I am able to chat and ride for an hour with little physical complaint. I’ve even been up the Alpe a few times. I’d say things really turned around for me when I joined DIRT.
How’d you get into Zwift?
I came to Zwift through my husband’s (Brian Carver) obsession. He had been doing a lot of mountain biking and when cold weather hit he started searching for ways to continue cycling indoors during the off-season. Our relationship began as two overworked doctoral students whose date nights consisted of power-lifting and watching SouthPark episodes. We have a bit of a monkey-see monkey-do relationship when it comes to physical activity. After watching Brian suffer for a few months I expressed interest in putting my bike on the trainer and my obsession was born.
As this is mental health awareness month, I’ll be a bit more candid about Zwift, DIRT and the world. I have had major recurrent depression since childhood. This is the type of depression where people silently think about ways to die and don’t “cry for help.” When I say that every day is a struggle for me, I really mean it. I work hard every day to function, to make sure my kids are happy and healthy and connect with my friends and family.
My ability to bond with my husband through power-lifting and rugby and hiking and camping and now Zwift has truly made my life enjoyable, and that is something that many people with the severity of my depression and anxiety are never able to say about their lives. I’m not trying to scare anybody, I’m just trying to say that having someone who shares my love of type two activities (suffer first, enjoy benefits later) has given me something to look forward to in my life, which affects all of our lives.
My experience with Zwift hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. The first time I tried it, I hated it. I was still in physical therapy after having surgery on my left foot a year prior to joining Zwift. My foot hurt, my seat hurt and I felt like I had lost all of my fitness prior to surgery. I struggled to pedal for 20 minutes. That really hurt my feelings about myself and what I felt I might be able to accomplish post-surgery.
How did you notice DIRT and why did you join?
I have been Zwifting for a little over a year now. Instead of 20min of suffering, I am able to chat and ride for an hour with little physical complaint. I’ve even been up the Alpe a few times. I’d say things really turned around for me when I joined DIRT.
I had joined a Zwift sponsored group ride and found that the riders on that particular ride were not being very encouraging. I exited the ride and just felt pissed that people would come out and then feel unwelcome. Again, the monkey-see monkey-do in our marriage kicked in and Brian asked me to join DIRT. I haven’t experienced any negativity on team DIRT. It doesn’t matter if you’re sneaking in nap time exercise or you’re trying to make a podium IRL. Everybody is cheering for you, wherever you are in your cycling, and everybody has the bond of being a parent.
In just over a year I have lost about 8 pounds and lowered my cholesterol by about 50 points. Now, I am able to walk on my post-surgical foot without pain. I feel like I’m becoming the athlete I once was, and that has been very good for our whole family. The fact that I am able to lead the Family Values Ride makes me feel that I’m contributing to the DIRT community, and it makes me proud that I’m able to make everyone on the ride feel encouraged. I know how much one positive thing in your day can truly turn things around.
How has Zwift helped with family and work balance?
Brian and I are able to set goals for ourselves and cheer each other on. My goals are very different from Brian’s but they are appropriate for my well-being. He cheers for me like I’ve completed an Ironman every time I do something awesome on the bike.
I ride in the evenings after work and school and everybody hangs out with me. The kids like to jump on their bikes and ride around and they love giving “ride ons”. We get to have family time and decompress from the day, and hopefully, our kids are picking up good habits. I’m in the process of opening a business and getting back to working outside of the home. The stability of having Brian Zwift in the morning and then me taking my turn has helped keep us all balanced, active and connected to each other and our DIRT family while everything else is in transition. Being able to connect with people on days when the weather is terrible, we’re traveling or I’m just not feeling “up to” leaving the house is truly meaningful.